Workplace health, safety & communication

In New Zealand, all workers must be given a safe working environment and provided with any personal protective equipment they need.

Discrimination, harassment and bullying

Workplaces must be free of discrimination, harassment and bullying.

In New Zealand, every worker is protected from unlawful discrimination.

It means your employer can’t use personal things about you as reasons to treat you any differently to anyone else. Those things include your age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, marital status, employment status or your political opinions.

If you feel you’re being harassed you need to raise it with your employer. If you’re not comfortable talking to your employer alone, you can bring a friend, family member or a union member for support.

If your employer is harassing you, you can raise a personal grievance. Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious, humiliating or insulting behaviour that you might experience in your workplace. There are steps you can take if either an employer or a workmate is bullying you.

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Emergency services

If there is an accident or emergency in your workplace, dial 111. This number connects to all the emergency service. You just ask for police, fire or ambulance. Calling 111 is free from any telephone in New Zealand (including mobiles) 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Fitting in at work

You may find the way people behave at work and speak to each other is quite different in New Zealand.

You’ll probably notice that at work New Zealanders:

  • Like to work on their own without being closely supervised
  • Expect everyone to be treated the same
  • Respect their employers and supervisors but speak to them in quite a relaxed way
  • Feel free to make suggestions
  • Are happy to take on different tasks, not just those they were employed to do.

You may also find that many New Zealanders speak quite quickly. The Kiwi accent can also make it difficult to understand what they are saying the first time. It may take some time to get used to the way New Zealanders speak and also the words they use.

These tips might help you get used to New Zealand workplaces.

  • If you don’t understand something a colleague or your employer has said,  just ask them to repeat it again.
  • The people you work with may find it difficult to understand your English to begin with, even if you speak English well.  Sometimes it helps if you speak a little more slowly and remember to pause between sentences.
  • Try to speak English as much as you can – even with people who speak your own language fluently. Speaking the language will make English easier for you – and make it easier for others to understand you.

Immigration New Zealand has produced resources to help improve communication between employers and workers, check out our WorkTalk tool and Guide for Newcomers (PDF).

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More health and safety information

If things about health and safety in your workplace are worrying you, ask your supervisor or employer for information.

You can also check how the health and safety requirements apply to workplaces like yours.

If you feel you don’t have enough information, training or knowledge to do your job then tell your employer.

You have the right to be involved in improving health and safety in your workplace.

You can also refuse to do certain jobs if you think they might harm you, but you should talk to your employer first. If that doesn’t solve the problem you can phone the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 (8.30am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays). You can ask for “Language Line” if you want an interpreter. If calling from overseas call +64 9 969 2950.

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Your employer’s responsibilities

Employers are required to provide their employees with a safe workplace and to follow health and safety law.

Your employer must tell you about the things in your workplace that might cause injury or harm to your health or the people you work with. They must also provide you with the right protective equipment and give you the right training so that you can do your job safely.

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Your responsibilities as a worker

As an employee you are responsible for working safely, making sure that you’re not harmed at work and for making sure that other people aren’t harmed by your actions.

You need to use machinery and equipment safely and in the way you were trained.

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